After having been a gamer for o these many years, I’ve seen the game evolve quite a bit. I started gaming back in 1979 when there was Basic Dungeons and Dragons and Advanced Dungeons and Dragons was new to hit the scene. I learned all the ins and outs of the basic game, with its Keep on the Borderlands basic module (one that I played many times in many different scenarios with many different players), and the infamous Caves of Chaos. Old timers will remember this I’m sure.
My friends and I devoured any and all additions to the game and when Dragon magazine was released, we devoured that too. There were flaws in the game and when Advanced D&D came out, we of course devoured it too in turn. So began our journey to here and now as does each step we have taken in the past.
Over the years, I’ve watched things grow more and more corporate, from the mad mother syndrome that gave rise to the ban on calling creatures of the lower planes Demons and Devils and calling them Baatezu and Tanar ri. That was a big red flag. Not only was it the dumbest and most useless move in the company’s attempt at political correctness I’ve ever seen, it was also pointless and proved only how spineless the upper echelon of the company was at the time. I understand how it sometimes becomes necessary to make concessions to the public’s demands in order to sell more product, that is what it’s all about anyway, so to rename something to make it more popular isn’t all that out of the ordinary.
Demons, Devils, Dragons, etc. are staples of the game and if we they were to change all the baddies to be less scary just so the kiddies don’t make bad inferences from the names, we’d have baatezu and respiratorily-enhanced reptillians making off with our baked goods.
Ok, so they ultimately renamed them demons and devils, bravo. Hats off to the administration for that, and a big finger up to the mothers who are too lazy to explain to their children that this is just a game, or too far up their pastor’s sermons to cast a glance at the D&D section of the book store or talk about the travesty that is Harry Potter without flagellating for an hour after vespers.
Then comes edition 3,5, which is a good system, for the most part. After a bunch of tweaking with house rules, I have my games running the way I want them, so there we are. Then the horror of horrors happen and we get edition 4.0. Purported to be the dream version of D&D that will end all our long die rolling gaming sessions and replace them with streamlined rules and quick resolutions to previously encumbering encounters that have us ponderously poring over the rules to…hey, wait, I LIKE long die rolling sessions. I like the 3.5 edition and it’s rules. In 3.5 not every other character class is a battle leader, and not every other character race is some half-breed with magical powers. The gnome is gone, and so is the bard and the druid, two of my favs, and every freaking little thing is explained so as to reduce the necessity of imagination to nearly nil.
C’mon, are sales so important that you have to market a game that requires smarts and imagination to everyone regardless if they have an imagination or not? Yes, that is harsh, but I have played with far too many people who have no business in the game and that’s not because of a lack of imagination, which they had in excess, the lack, that is. It was because there are people who don’t have the force of will to know the difference between fantasy and reality and they shouldn’t be playing in the first place. But I have another problem with the new rules; if you explain every little thing and eliminate the need for an imagination, what fun is left to be had.
I’ve had the supreme misfortune of playing with those who would argue incessantly over numbers in the game. “There CAN’T be that many orcs, the book says they are encountered in groups of 30-300.” or something like that. I just kill them when they do that. Well, not them, their characters. Or I dog them out so bad their characters kill themselves. Mean? Yes, of course it is. Fun? Even more so.
I still play 3.5 and refuse to look into version 4 any further. It has been dumbed down, lined out, bleached of originality and creativity, two things I treasure above all, and left as a sterile package of fluff for the beige, politically correct, unimaginative masses to consume and boast of being gamers. Am I being an elitist? I think so. Not that I mean to. Everyone should be free to play the game if they want. But the game, up to this point, version 4, had been written with at least a little spark of creative, a pinch of smart, and a dash of original, and now most of that is lost, leaving behind only a pale, shallow husk of what the game used to be.
We need to fix that somehow.
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